Provo — the newest ‘Bike-friendly community’ in America

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Provo is the newest official ‘Bicycle Friendly Community,’ it has been announced. Due to safety measures and awareness of cyclists by motorists, Provo has shown it is worthy of the status handed out by the League of American Bicyclists.

According to traffic engineer Casey Serr, many steps have been taken to ensure Provo is safe for cyclists. In the last 15 years “42 miles of bike lanes have been established” in Provo Serr said. During the summer new  “bike lanes” were added all over the city while “a trail on South State St included new bike able shoulders” was added and “new shoulders” were added all the way from South State St to Springville.

These provisions for cyclists, Serr said, were an addition to the “bike lanes on 100 South, West Center Street, 2050 West and on all of Lakeshore Drive from Center Street to 1390 North” that were added to the city last summer.

“We have been creating a Bicycle Master plan this year which ties into Orem and Springville and is compatible with the Mountain land Association of Governments regional bike plan,” said Serr “We are in the process of designing close to seven miles of new road on the west of Provo which will have a separate trail for bike and pedestrians. Our Bike committee has been active in plan development and educational programs which have events supporting and encouraging bike use citywide.”

Sterling Beck, Provo City Council representative for District 5, is excited with the gains Provo has made.

“The mayor and the council have worked really hard to achieve this,” Beck said. “But it’s been the Provo Bike Committee that really made it possible. It’s a sign that when we set a goal, and work together, we’re able to achieve some amazing things here in Provo.”

The change to a bike-friendly community didn’t happen overnight and came with much-needed improvements in the community from the Provo Council.

“We just installed our first ‘art’ bike rack in front of the Provo County Convention center, and have allocated funding to see many more go up throughout the downtown, ” Beck said. “We saw a 20 percent increase in bike lanes the first year I took office and have continued to see more and more lanes come in. We worked with the county to allocate more than $100,000 towards bike planning. We’ve even sent representation to the national bike summit to meet with our congressional delegation about ways to improve our bikability. The list (of improvements in Provo) goes on and on.”
In a recent press release, League of American Bicyclists president Andy Clarke said, “We are excited that Provo recognizes that simple steps to make biking safe and comfortable pay huge dividends in civic, community and economic development. Bicycling is more than a practical, cost-effective solution to many municipal challenges — it’s a way to make Provo a place where people don’t just live and work, but thrive.”

While Provo has done a lot to make biking in Provo more enjoyable, there is still room for improvement. Helen Anderson, Provo City spokeswoman, said that in 2011 there were “60 accidents involving bicycles.”

“Places like Bulldog Boulevard have been dangerous,” Beck said, “which is one of the reasons that the city is working with Alta planning to put together a comprehensive bike plan for the entire city. I believe BYU is working on their own plan with Alta as well and know that we’ll be able to focus on safety together.”

According to the League’s official website, cities are critiqued by something called the “Five E’s”: Engineering, Education, Encouragement, Enforcement and Evaluation & Planning.

 “A community must demonstrate achievements in each of the five categories in order to be considered for an award on the Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum level,” the website says. “Communities with more significant achievements in these areas receive higher awards. The BFC application is a great self-assessment tool, as communities see where they are lacking in each of these categories.” Provo was rated a bronze.

Carolyn Szczepanski, Director of Communications at the League of American Bicyclists, said in an email, “The award is designated for four years, at which point a community must ‘renew’ its status.” It is hoped that Provo may be able to advance in levels again by that time.

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